The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was founded in London, England, in 1844 by George Williams and friends. Although the Y was founded on Christian principles, it was created and remains nonsectarian and accepts those of all faiths at all levels of the organization. The first U.S. YMCA started in Boston in 1851, the work of Thomas Sullivan, a retired sea captain who was a lay missionary.
Fargo's YMCA began on March 1, 1886, at the home of Mrs. S.G. Toberts. The "Y" in Fargo was chartered and incorporated on October 29, 1886. It was first located in the old County Courthouse (pictured right). [The photograph is taken from the June 7, 1894 edition of the Argus; scan courtesy of the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies.]
This building, originally built on the present site of the NP Depot, was the first county courthouse and was erected in 1874. The building was moved to First Avenue South between Seventh and Eighth Streets. The first YMCA was converted to a boarding house and finally torn down in 1967.
The building pictured above was replaced in 1905. The new "Y" was built for $50,000 and stood on the southeast corner of Roberts Street and First Avenue North (see 1926 photograph below). The first floor of the building contained a lobby and reception desk. The semi-basement contained a swimming pool and dressing rooms. There was a gymnasium/basketball court with an overhead track for running laps. There was also a weight room and several handball/racquetball courts. The upper two floors contained rooms for rent.
In 1903, the Fargo Y purchased 37 acres of land on the northwest shore of Big Cormorant Lake. Here the Y established Camp Cormorant, a summer camp for boys. It was one of the earliest residence camps in the U.S. It is located in Minnesota, about halfway between Fargo and Detroit Lakes. It is one of the oldest summer camps for boys in the country. I have many fond memories of the camp in the 50's, including archery, horseback riding, swimming, crafts, and ghost stories. The camp is still in operation and today serves about 700 boys each summer, including about 150 on scholarship. To see some pictures of the old Camp Cormorant, please go here.
In 1961, Y members raised over $1.2 million to build a new facility and in 1962 the Fargo-Moorhead Family YMCA moved to their new facility at 400 1st Avenue South. At some time in the 1960's, razed. The site is now a parking lot.
In 1989, the "Y" on Broadway was established and in 1994 an additional facility was built near West Acres. In 1997, the Schlossman Family YMCA opened in south Fargo.
In the last two decades, one focus of the "Y" has been children and day care. In 1980, the first childcare program began at the Family YMCA. In 1989, school age child care began at Madison and Jefferson elementary schools. In 1999, the Y South Childcare Center opened at the Dakota Heartland campus.
Additional information about the Fargo-Moorhead Family YMCA can be found at their site. A special thanks is due to Paul Finstad, Executive Director of the Fargo "Y" for his help.